Neocolonial Relations of Biopiracy in Vaccine Production and Distribution

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The Ohio State University

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The thesis explores structural violence and inequality in neocolonial settings. Within the theoretical framework of neocolonialism, illness and mortality due to preventable diseases is a major field of study. Specifically, the thesis focuses on biopiracy and the influenza vaccine distribution. Geographically, the thesis focuses on a biopiracy issue in Indonesia that occurred in 2007 and the subsequent events that followed. Indonesia was mandated by international law to share its influenza strains with a WHO committee known as the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS). However, WHO shared viral samples with third party pharmaceutical companies that patented the strains for vaccine production without Indonesia's knowledge or consent. These vaccines were then offered to Indonesia at prohibitive prices. This event exposed the institutional inequalities that exist in WHO between central and peripheral global actors. While globalization has made it impossible for diseases and viruses to be isolated by countries or borders, the thesis argues that "developing" nations with long colonial histories continue to be exploited in neocolonial contexts, while global institutions such as WHO continue to perpetuate forms of structural violence and inequality.



Neocolonialism, Biopiracy, Vaccines